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Letter: No plans to dredge river: Port

Dear Editor, Re: “Metro board refuses to accept Massey bridge,” News, July 1.
Dredging in the Fraser River Estuary is necessary to allow shipping traffic to pass through safely. But it's coming at a cost to the environmentally significant Sturgeon Banks off Richmond's west coastline.

Dear Editor,

Re: “Metro board refuses to accept Massey bridge,” News, July 1.

I am writing to provide clarity about the role of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in the provincial government’s plans for the George Massey Tunnel replacement project, in response to recent comments covered in the Richmond News that are inaccurate. 

The Province of British Columbia leads the George Massey Tunnel replacement project and consulted with us on proposed design criteria, primarily because the port authority has navigational jurisdiction of the waterway and is therefore required to ensure any overhead or underwater structures do not impede current or future shipping.

Regarding comments the port authority aims to accommodate larger vessels on the Fraser River, including tankers, the port authority does not decide what goods and commodities Canada trades.

Our role is to ensure goods are moved safely, efficiently and sustainably. Any proposal for larger vessels would come from proponents other than the port authority, and would be subject to various federal and provincial regulatory and permitting processes.

Removing the tunnel in favour of the proposed bridge will not significantly change the size of vessels that are able to use the channel. The proposed bridge would be the same height above the water as the existing Alex Fraser Bridge, so the maximum vessel height that can be accommodated upriver of the bridge will remain unchanged.

Other impediments to larger vessels are the depth of the navigation channel, the width, which does not allow very large vessels to turn, and other structures such as utilities that cross under the Fraser River at shallower depths than the tunnel that also prevent substantial deepening of the channel.

There are currently no plans to address these constraints and to deepen the navigation channel. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority continues to facilitate an active dredging program which will maintain the current channel characteristics, and ensure the economic activity important to users and to Canada continues.

On behalf of all of us at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, I want to assure the public that we are passionate about our obligation to our federal mandate, which is to safely facilitate Canada’s trade while protecting the environment and considering local communities. 

We take extremely seriously our responsibility to engage and consult with the public on projects proposed for port lands and have a comprehensive consultation process in place. Information about current and proposed projects is available on our website, where members of public can sign up for news online, including public consultation announcements

Peter Xotta

Vice President, Planning and Operations

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority